Nurturing pupils’ learning journeys drives resilience and celebrates originality

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Ysgol Llanfairpwllgwyngyll has sustained its high standards by focusing on pupils’ educational journey, rather than the the finished work. This has resulted in pupils becoming more independent and resilient and boosted creativity.

Number of pupils: 360
Age range: 3-11
Date of inspection: June 2018

Context and background to the effective or innovative practice

In 2014, when looking objectively at provision and standards at the school, it was evident to leaders that although the school’s standards were high, there was a tendency to nurture pupils who worked particularly well within the limited constraints of lessons; lessons that, to a degree, expected pupils to respond in a particular way.  The school reversed the planning system, by placing more of a focus on the educational journey rather than the finished work.  Also, the national reasoning tests showed that pupils did not have the resilience to persevere with specific tasks.

Description of nature of strategy or activity

Developing independent pupils at the school starts in the nursery class.  There, careful and purposeful planning, in addition to high expectations, ensure that pupils are given opportunities to develop skills and practice in specific areas with adult intervention.  Training staff to take a step back and allow pupils to proceed has been an integral part of developing independence in the early years.

This independence is developed and deepened in the reception class, where teachers and assistants plan challenging and stimulating activities, and ensure that opportunities for pupils to work independently are a constant priority.  The outdoor area is a core part, where providing freedom and breadth creates an environment that nurtures pupils’ independence.  The staff’s willingness to encourage and motivate, rather than take too much of a leading role, develops pupils who have the confidence to venture.

In Years 1 and 2, pupils are developed further by increasing the level of challenge so that success creates a sense of pride, but more importantly raises the question of what next.  On the other hand, failure is considered to be a route towards success.  By planning work at different levels of challenge and nurturing pupils’ maturity to choose an appropriate level of challenge, this sets a firm foundation for the rest of the school.  Pupils develop the willingness to choose challenging tasks, which is key to developing their independence.  More confident pupils move freely from one level of challenge to another.  Pupils will often use the same level of challenge to practice their skills and remind themselves of the skills necessary for the task before attempting a more difficult level of challenge, in order to build towards success.

In key stage 2, procedures such as ‘fi bia’r dewis’ (the choice is mine) and ‘dewis doeth’ (sensible choice) extend pupils’ independence.  In a ‘dewis doeth’ task, pupils have the freedom to choose how to respond to a specific topic, comment or aim.  The response method is open-ended and gives pupils the freedom to respond in whatever way they choose.  Pupils often choose to respond in pairs, groups or individually.  Teachers monitor them carefully, particularly in the first years of key stage 2, in order to ensure that pupils vary their response methods.  ‘Fi bia’r dewis’ sessions give pupils time to practice particular skills and abilities in a variety of tasks.  There is a wealth of tasks in which pupils are expected to challenge themselves, and they realise quickly that one of the main objectives of the tasks is perseverance.

At the top of the school, ‘Awr Athrylith’ (Genius Hour) sessions provide free time each week for pupils to work on a personal project.  This is based on the procedures of a well-known company that gives employees 10% of their time to work on their own projects and, from the 10%, a large number of the company’s most famous developments have grown.  The golden rule of the ‘Awr Athrylith’ is that they work on a project for an audience.  Work of a very high standard has been produced during these periods, such as a handbook on learning to swim and a project to teach animation to foundation phase pupils.

Nurturing independence can be seen most prominently as pupils at the top of the school follow their own learning pathways.  At the start of a unit of work, the teacher introduces the climax of the unit to pupils, namely what the extended writing task will be, and pupils plan their pathway towards that task, with a large number of pupils succeeding in identifying which skills and personal targets they will target during the unit.  This gives pupils full ownership of whole units of work.

What impact has this work had on provision and learners’ standards?

There is an obvious impact on the school’s pupils.  Standards have remained high, but pupils’ resilience and perseverance when working on a task and checking their own work and that of their peers, while preparing them to respond positively to all challenges that they face, show the effect of provision clearly.  It has also had a positive effect on pupils’ creativity, by creating an ethos of celebrating and respecting originality.

How have you shared your good practice?

GwE support advisers have identified the strength of this aspect of the school.  Practice has been disseminated widely among schools in Gwynedd and Anglesey, and a number of schools have come to observe different aspects of the school’s planning and organisation.